WASHINGTON — As Brett Kavanaugh entered the home stretch of his Capitol Hill questioning Thursday evening, the Supreme Court nominee received high marks from Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is responsible for vetting the nomination, told The World-Herald that Kavanaugh had demonstrated good temperament and was forthcoming about how he applies precedent to cases before him.
While praising Kavanaugh’s performance, Sasse bemoaned the politicization of Supreme Court nomination hearings since Robert Bork’s nomination was torpedoed more than 30 years ago.
“The reason these confirmation processes largely don’t work is because they’ve been hijacked by theatrics,” Sasse said.
This week’s proceedings have been interrupted frequently and often dramatically by waves of protesters who stood one after another yelling out slogans against the nomination.
Many of those statements have been claims that as a justice, Kavanaugh would undermine Americans’ abortion rights and would be loyal to Donald Trump in civil or criminal cases involving the president.
Those areas also have been primary areas of Democrats’ questioning.
In particular, committee members have pressed Kavanaugh on whether a sitting president can be indicted and whether he would recuse himself from matters stemming from the investigation into 2016 election interference.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., raised the idea that not promising to recuse could prompt Americans to think that the system is rigged and that Kavanaugh is someone loyal to Trump — a suggestion Kavanaugh rejected.
Sasse said it’s clear that Kavanaugh does not believe that the president can be lawless based on his public record as a judge.
“This is a guy who just fundamentally believes in the rule of law and has been doing this for a really long time,” Sasse said. “It isn’t like he’s a guy who the president picked because he was the president’s personal aide for 35 years.”
Sasse used his time Thursday to ask the judge what happens when the Supreme Court makes a mistake.
Kavanaugh talked about the role of dissenting opinions and how a body of litigation can make it clear that the court erred, laying the foundation for the justices to eventually change course.
Democrats have complained intensely about the committee’s approach to Kavanaugh’s records from his time working at the White House.
They’ve suggested that many of those have been withheld or inappropriately tagged as confidential, making it impossible to thoroughly vet the nominee.
Sasse said he had no concerns about the production of documents.
Many of the documents in question are emails Kavanaugh was simply copied in on because of his position in the White House, Sasse said, and many others can be made public if senators ask for them to be.
“They’ve produced more documents for the Kavanaugh nomination than the last five Supreme Court nominees combined,” Sasse said. “By far the most paper of any nominee in U.S. history.”